Businesses, education institutions can build better workforce
Jan. 6, 2014 at 8:01 p.m.
Updated Jan. 6, 2014 at 7:07 p.m.
Collaborations between businesses, education institutions and members of the community can build strong a workforce - just ask Gilbert Hall and Lisa Wade.
The two speakers presented their experiences redeveloping the Muskogee, Okla., workforce to businessmen, women and educators in the community Monday afternoon at the Workforce Solutions Golden Crescent.
Henry Guajardo, executive director of Workforce Solutions, said Hall and Wade were invited to host the presentation to look at solutions that address the local workforce issues.
"We're looking for ways to prepare job seekers to better meet the jobs of employers," he said.
Hall and Wade talked about the importance of education as a solution to create a qualified workforce and the work ready certification.
The certification program, created by ACT, is an assessment for individuals who are preparing to enter the workforce, said Guajardo. It assesses an individual's skills in applied mathematics, locating information and reading for information. The workforce is looking to determine whether the program is a good fit for Victoria and the six surrounding counties it serves.
Introducing topics specific to different careers in grade school can help develop the interest, which can lead students to seek focused education on relevant subjects, said Hall, senior training coordinator at Oklahoma Gas & Electric.
"Third and fourth grade is where it begins," he said.
Businesses that are aligned with schools can support a student's interest in a given career, he said, and if they can see what it takes to get there, they are likely to follow that path as they continue their education.
"Employers want people that are college or career ready," he said. "There are things you can do as a community to get it done."
Lanell Mantey, executive director of the Victoria Business and Education Coalition, took an interest in the presentation as it touched on the organization's primary goal.
"What we've been doing and trying to do obviously isn't working," she said. "We have to be willing to open our minds and techniques and change in order to make this whole process work."
Many of the students have the ability to fill the positions they want, she said; they just don't know how to get there. She hopes the community will take advantage of what Hall and Wade had to say and begin a process that will build a partnership with the community.
Wade, director of Muskogee Difference Healthcare Scholarship and Outreach at Connors State College, pointed to three things that were needed to re-develop the Muskogee workforce: need for community collaboration, shared strategic vision and money.
"It all ties together," she said.
Through their work, they realized that in order to maintain a workforce of qualified applicants they had to start with the kids.
They started getting kids interested in health care by teaching them skills they can use in the field.
"We connected them with activities that can teach them," Wade said. "(Businesses) recognize them as their next generation of employees."